Sony Pictures Imageworks

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Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc.
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryCGI visual effects
Motion pictures
FoundedMay 26, 1992; 31 years ago (1992-05-26)
Headquarters725 Granville Street, 5th Floor, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
3875 Rue Saint-Urbain, Suite 415, Montréal, Québec H2W 1T9 Canada
Additional offices10202 West Washington Boulevard, Culver City, California, United States
Number of locations
2
Products
Number of employees
800 (2018)[1]
ParentSony Pictures Motion Picture Group
Websiteimageworks.com

Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. is a Canadian visual effects and computer animation studio headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia and Montréal, Québec, with an additional office on the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, California.[2] SPI is a unit of Sony Pictures Entertainment's Motion Picture Group.[3][4]

The company has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Oscars for their work on Spider-Man 2 and the computer-animated short film The ChubbChubbs!, and received many other nominations for their work.

SPI has provided visual effects for many films; most recent include The Meg, Men in Black: International, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. They also provided services for several of director Robert Zemeckis' films, including Contact, Cast Away, The Polar Express, and Beowulf.

Since the foundation of its sister company Sony Pictures Animation in 2002, SPI would go on to animate nearly all of SPA's films, including Open Season, Surf's Up, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and films in the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Smurfs and Hotel Transylvania franchises, in addition to animating films for other studios such as Arthur Christmas for Aardman Animations (co-produced by SPA), Storks and Smallfoot for Warner Animation Group (now known as Warner Bros. Pictures Animation), The Angry Birds Movie for Rovio Animation and its sequel (co-produced by SPA and Rovio), Over the Moon for Netflix and Pearl Studio, and The Sea Beast for Netflix Animation.

History[edit]

Sony Pictures Imageworks was formed in 1992 with five employees to use computers to help plan complicated scenes for live-action films.[5] Located in the former TriStar building, their first work was a previsualization for the 1993 film Striking Distance.[6]

To fill the gaps between VFX jobs, SPI decided to partake in a more profitable animation business.[7] Its first independent animated effort was the 5-minute short The ChubbChubbs! directed by Eric Armstrong. In 2002, it won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. Early Bloomer, released in 2003, was the division's second short film and originally made as a storyboarding exercise.[8] SPI completed its first feature animation project in 2006 with the release of Open Season, which was produced by sister company Sony Pictures Animation.

In 2007, SPI acquired Indian visual effects studio FrameFlow to take advantage of lower labor costs.[7][9] Renamed to Imageworks India, a modern facility was opened in Chennai a year later.[10] To leverage New Mexico's tax rebates and talent base,[11] a satellite production facility was opened in 2007 in Albuquerque,[12] becoming the largest post-production operation in the state.[13] In 2010, SPI opened a production studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, in order to take advantage of the local talent pool and government film production incentives.[14] Two years later, the studio doubled its Vancouver facilities.[15] At the same time, the Albuquerque studio was closed down due to declining New Mexico's subsidies and difficulty with attracting artists to move there.[11]

In the beginning of 2014, as part of Sony's cost-cutting move, SPI transferred a portion of its technology team from its headquarters in Culver City to Vancouver.[7] By May 2014, entire headquarters and production had been moved to Vancouver, with only a small office remaining in Culver City.[16] At the same time, SPI closed down its Indian studio, laying off around 100 employees[17] A year later, over 700 artists moved into a new 74,000-square feet headquarters in Vancouver.[18][19]

On October 6, 2023, Cartoon Brew reported that DreamWorks Animation was moving away from producing films in-house at their Glendale campus to rely more heavily on outside studios after 2024, as part of a layoff by chief operating officer Randy Lake in a series of meetings the previous month. According to the report, SPI was named as the animation service for an unannounced DreamWorks sequel scheduled for 2025.[20]

Technology[edit]

During 2009-2010, SPI made transition from traditional biased, multi-pass rendering system to a largely singlepass, global illumination system incorporating modern ray-tracing and physically based shading techniques. They have achieved that with Arnold Renderer, an unbiased stochastic ray tracer. Arnold, started in 1997 by Marcos Fajardo, was co-developed between 2004 and 2009 with SPI, where Marcos was employed, and a commercial branch is being developed by Marcos' Madrid based company Solid Angle SL (now owned by Autodesk). Arnold was used on projects such as Monster House, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 2012, Alice in Wonderland, The Smurfs, Arthur Christmas and is being used on all upcoming SPI's films.[21]

Filmography[edit]

Sony Pictures Imageworks has provided visual effects and digital animation for the following films:[22]

Year Films
1993 Last Action Hero
In the Line of Fire
So I Married an Axe Murderer
Striking Distance (CGI previsualization, uncredited)
Mr. Jones (titles only)
Rudy (titles only)
Look Who's Talking Now (CGI titles and CGI visual effects)
My Life
The Pelican Brief (falcon jet air to air shot)
1994 Guarding Tess (CGI titles only)
Speed
Wolf
Blankman (CGI blankwheel screen graphics and CGI plate supervision)
1995 Hideaway
Tall Tale
Die Hard with a Vengeance
Johnny Mnemonic (CGI cyberspace sequence)
Judge Dredd (CGI additional digital compositing)
The Net (CGI plane crash sequence)
Virtuosity (CGI tendril animation)
Money Train (CGI money train wreck sequence/CGI digital composites)
Wings of Courage
1996 James and the Giant Peach
The Craft
The Cable Guy
Phenomenon
The Ghost and the Darkness
Michael
1997 Anaconda
Contact
Starship Troopers
The Postman
As Good as It Gets
1998 The Replacement Killers
Sphere (CGI end sequence)
City of Angels
Paulie
The Big Hit
Godzilla
You've Got Mail (titles only)
Patch Adams
Star Trek: Insurrection
1999 Big Daddy
The Astronaut's Wife (CGI alien effects)
The Ninth Gate
Jakob the Liar
Stuart Little
Snow Falling on Cedars
2000 What Planet Are You From?
What Lies Beneath
Hollow Man
Charlie's Angels
Cast Away
2001 Evolution (CGI flatworm animation sequence)
America's Sweethearts
Riding in Cars with Boys
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
2002 Spider-Man
Men in Black II
Stuart Little 2
The Tuxedo
I Spy
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
2003 Darkness Falls
Anger Management
Identity (CGI digital color timing)
The Matrix Reloaded
Hollywood Homicide
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
Bad Boys II
Seabiscuit
Matchstick Men
The Matrix Revolutions
The Haunted Mansion
Big Fish
Peter Pan
2004 50 First Dates
Spider-Man 2
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Little Black Book
The Forgotten
The Polar Express
Christmas with the Kranks
The Aviator
Spanglish
2005 Cursed
Bewitched
Zathura
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
2006 Click
Superman Returns
Monster House
Open Season
Last Holiday
2007 Ghost Rider
Spider-Man 3
Surf's Up
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (CGI visual effects enhancement)[23]
The Jane Austen Book Club
Beowulf
I Am Legend
2008 Speed Racer
You Don't Mess with the Zohan
Hancock
Eagle Eye
Body of Lies
Valkyrie
2009 Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience
Watchmen
G-Force
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Michael Jackson's This Is It
2012
2010 Alice in Wonderland
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
2011 The Green Hornet
Just Go with It
Green Lantern
Zookeeper
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Smurfs
Arthur Christmas
2012 Men in Black 3
The Amazing Spider-Man
Hotel Transylvania
Here Comes the Boom
2013 Oz: The Great and Powerful
The Smurfs 2
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Blended
Edge of Tomorrow
22 Jump Street
Deliver Us from Evil
Guardians of the Galaxy
Fury
American Sniper
The Interview
2015 Pixels
Hotel Transylvania 2
Concussion
2016 The Angry Birds Movie
Alice Through the Looking Glass
Ghostbusters
Suicide Squad
Storks
2017 Smurfs: The Lost Village
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Emoji Movie
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
2018 Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
The Meg
Smallfoot
Venom
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
2019 Men in Black: International
Spider-Man: Far From Home
The Angry Birds Movie 2
Zombieland: Double Tap (Columbia Pictures CGI opening variant only)
Jumanji: The Next Level
2020 Mulan
Over the Moon
2021 The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Vivo
Spider-Man: No Way Home
2022 Hotel Transylvania: Transformania
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The Sea Beast
Thor: Love and Thunder
2023 Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The Marvels

Upcoming[edit]

Year Films
2024 Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
In Your Dreams
2025 Untitled DreamWorks Animation project
Untitled DreamWorks Animation project

Television[edit]

Controversy[edit]

In an article published by Vulture, several animators quit Across the Spider-Verse due to unstable working conditions. According to the Animation Guild, while Imageworks is associated with Sony Animation, Imageworks remains non-union.[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Derdeyn, Stuart (September 22, 2017). "Vancouver's Sony Pictures Imageworks is on the cutting edge of VFX industry". The Vancouver Sun. Postmedia Network. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  2. ^ Bruce Constantineau (May 28, 2014). "Sony Pictures Imageworks to move head office to Vancouver". The Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on May 31, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  3. ^ "Sony Pictures - Divisions". sonypictures.com. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  4. ^ "Sony Pictures Imageworks". imageworks.com. Archived from the original on January 25, 2016. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  5. ^ Halbfinger, David M. (October 31, 2007). "Sony Said to Be Pondering Partial Sale of Movie Units". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 12, 2014. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  6. ^ Failes, Ian (August 30, 2012). "From Speed to Spidey: 20 years of VFX and animation". FX Guide. Archived from the original on September 12, 2014. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c S. Cohen, David (January 21, 2014). "Sony Imageworks Shifting Staff From L.A. to Vancouver; Layoffs Feared". Variety. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  8. ^ Tito A. Belgrave (September 8, 2003). "Making Waves with Early Bloomer". CGSociety.org. Archived from the original on September 24, 2006. Retrieved November 5, 2010.
  9. ^ "Sony Pictures picks up 51% in FrameFlow" (Press release). FrameFlow via The Economic Times. February 20, 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  10. ^ IANS (April 11, 2008). "Sony Imageworks opens visual effects studio in Chennai". SiliconIndia.com. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Verrier, Richard (February 29, 2012). "Sony ImageWorks to Close New Mexico Viz Effects Unit". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  12. ^ "Albuquerque Studios Sees Special Effects of SONY Imageworks Deal in New Mexico" (Press release). Albuquerque Studios via PRWeb. May 20, 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  13. ^ Kamercik, Megan (February 29, 2012). "Sony Pictures Imageworks to leave New Mexico". New Mexico Business Weekly. Archived from the original on February 28, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2012.
  14. ^ MacInnis, Tara (August 14, 2012). "How Sony's Vancouver studios give Canadian animators home field advantage". National Post. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  15. ^ Etan, Vlessing (February 3, 2012). "Sony Pictures Imageworks Expands Canadian Outpost". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  16. ^ S. Cohen, David (May 29, 2014). "Sony Imageworks Moving HQ to Vancouver". Variety. Archived from the original on September 1, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  17. ^ S. Cohen, David (January 29, 2014). "Sony Imageworks India to Shut Down (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on January 13, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  18. ^ Marchand, Francois (July 10, 2015). "Sony Pictures Imageworks unveils new Vancouver headquarters". The Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on July 18, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  19. ^ Lu, Cecilia (July 29, 2015). "12 photos inside Sony Pictures Imageworks new downtown Vancouver HQ". Vancity Buzz. Archived from the original on August 29, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  20. ^ Amidi, Amid (October 6, 2023). "Dreamworks Shifting Away From In-House Production In Los Angeles; Sony Imageworks Is A New Production Partner". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved October 8, 2023.
  21. ^ Haines, Eric (July 20, 2010). "Marcos and Arnold". Ray Tracing News. Archived from the original on November 4, 2010. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  22. ^ "About". Sony Pictures Imageworks. Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. Archived from the original on September 3, 2018. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  23. ^ Robinson, April. "My journey to "Blade Runner 2049"". Autodesk. Archived from the original on April 2, 2019. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  24. ^ Lee, Chris (June 23, 2023). "'Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts'". Vulture. Retrieved July 10, 2023.

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